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Ray Hammond of Albury



Looking back at London & South East Classic Club winners (Part 14.)


Ray Hammond of Albury.


Ray Hammond is one of the ‘all time greats’ of long distance racing in the Surrey area, having put up many outstanding performances over many years and has won the longest old bird race in the London & South East Classic Club three times, including 1st open Pau (550 miles) in 2005. His Pau Classic winner was the dark cock, ‘Simply The Best’, and he is a firm favourite at the Albury loft, and now resides in the stock loft. Again, the 2005 Pau Classic was a very hard race and he won it well, being only the fourth race of his life. ‘Simply The Best’ was a latebred youngster in 2003 and had no racing as a young bird or yearling. I handled this great pigeon and I must say he was a perfect long distance type, being long cast in the hand, with very good silky feathering. Darran Mc Fadden’s 2008 Tarbes L&SECC winner, ‘Razor’s Girl, is a nice two year old pied hen, bred by the Albury long distance ace, Ray Hammond, and is a direct daughter of Ray’s 2005 L&SECC Pau winner, ‘Simply the Best’. A wonderful pigeon!


Ray’s record in the long distance races over many years is second to none, winning: 1st open L&SECC Dax (twice), 3rd open L&SECC Dax, 5th open L&SECC Dax, 1st open L&SECC Pau, 1st open SMT Combine Bergerac, 6th open L&SECC Pau, 9th open L&SECC Pau, 1st section, 2nd open BBC Palamos (665 miles), 2nd open BBC Barcelona (685 miles), 3rd open BBC Barcelona, 5th open BBC Barcelona, 1st section BBC Nantes, 1st section, 2nd open BBC Tours (only four birds home on the day of liberation), 2nd open BICC Perpignan, 19th open NFC Pau, 36th open NFC Pau and has won Bergerac at club level four times. A fantastic loft performance in the very best competition!


In mid-July 2006 the SMT Combine sent 1,012 birds to Bergerac, in south west France, for it’s longest old bird race and just managed to beat DEFRA’s latest closure of racing from the Continent, due to be imposed on 31st July. With very high temperatures and a stiff north east, the pigeons encountered one of the hardest Bergerac (450 miles) races ever, and certainly the hardest event of the 2006 season. Only five game pigeons were clocked on the day of liberation, with only two making over 900 y.p.m. and both theses were at the Godalming club in the Surrey Federation.


Ray Hammond of Albury, near Guildford, won the Combine doing 954 ypm with his good yearling blue cock, ‘Simply Wonderful’, and he was sent to Bergerac sitting seven day old eggs. This game cock had three inland races on his build up to the Bergerac race and took two weeks to come home from the Truro Combine event. When I asked Ray about his build up, he said, ‘I think he went to Ireland on his way home from Truro, as on his return he had Shamrock between his toes and he was singing, ‘It’s along way from Tipperary’. His sire is an Eric Cannon / Tom Gilbertson cross and has been in the clock many times on the long distance, including being first bird clocked from the L&SECC Bergerac race, on the same weekend as when he won the Combine. The grandsire of ‘Simply Wonderful’ won Bergerac twice in the old Dorking club. I handled the Bergerac Combine winner two days after he won and I noticed how well he was feathered, being nice and silky, and was half way up on his second flight.


Ray races 15 pairs on the natural system, with the long distance events in mind, and pairs up in mid-February. He likes to get the youngsters weaned before the old birds start training, but stressed to me that he trained very little, with the race team getting only four tosses through to Petersfield (30 miles) this season. Ray is only interested in the long distance, but says his birds need the distance on a hard day to do well, as recent races from Pau and Bergerac have proved. Ray’s Bergerac win is the second SMT Combine winner in the very strong Godalming club in the 2006 season, with Darran and Des McFadden topping the Combine from Yelverton. He told me he couldn’t keep up with the young ‘hot shots’ like Darren on the sprint races, but likes to send to those inland races to get the birds race fit. The main families kept are Eric Cannon, through Ron Dodd of Selsey, and Malcolm Parker has let Ray have some good long distance bloodlines, including the best of Tom Gilbertson. He told me he has had some very good results with sending pigeons to the distance races feeding a two day old youngster, but says every pigeon is an individual with different fades and the fancier must find out, in which nest condition each individual performs best. Ray is a heavy feeder and gives all the birds ‘Cranleigh Number 1” mixture all the year round. He de-worms twice a year and some times puts a little cod liver oil on the mixture. The old birds go through to Pau (550 miles) and he is a great believer in testing pigeons, so also sends a few yearlings to the south of France race point.


Ray has an 18ft x 6ft Kidby loft, which was paid for with winning from a young bird National race and he has a garden shed which was purchased for £10, and this housed his Pau Classic winner, ‘Simply The Best’, plus a couple of other stock birds. The old bird racers have 12ft of the main loft, which is kitted out with nest boxes and the young birds are housed in a 6ft section. The trapping is through the open hole and sputniks, and Ray has never used deep litter, with the loft being cleaned out once a week. Most of the stock birds he has kept through the years have been retired premier racing pigeons and if he has ever brought in a new bird it must be from the very best long distance bloodlines. He handles the bird, and his hands tell him the rest of the story.  He only keeps two stock cocks, one being the Pau Classic winner, and tells me he likes to show at the local club shows, saying it’s a great social thing for the members in the winter months. Ray says he breds 30 youngsters for racing every year and races the old fashion natural system to the perch, with the darkness never entertained. He is a retired bricklayer and maintains he is a lazy trainer, and never trains his old or young birds very much, but gives them an open loft as much as possible. Where he live is very rural and he has a lot of problems with the Hawks and Falcons attacking the birds in the garden. The young birds start training three weeks before the first race, going down the A3 in stages to Portsmouth and race the whole programme, including the L&SECC and NFC races in September.


Ray had his first pigeons as a school boy and had to pack them up when he joined the R.A.F., then after a few years he got married and had his family, he then decided to start up a second time in 1970. His original birds came from Ron Dodd of Cranleigh and on joining the British Barcelona Club, became very interested in long distance pigeon racing, with his ambition always being to win the Palamos National. One of Ray’s best pigeon days was when he won the Dax race in the morning and 2nd open BBC Palamos in the afternoon. What a thrill! He has lived at his present address in Albury 40 years and tells me, the ‘Simply The Best’ bloodlines go back to his 2nd and 5th open Barcelona pigeons, which in turn go back to the late, Fred Seaman of Woking pigeons. He maintains that not an enough young people are coming in the sport, because we are living in a computer age and they are not interested in sports like Fishing and Pigeon Racing any more. Ray is very interested in Horse Racing, visiting many premier race tracks around the UK with his son, Micky Hammond, who was a very successful jockey, winning many major races including the Scottish Grand National. Micky is a trainer these days and it seems he has inherited his good stock sense from his father! Ray is not to keen on the ETS system and says he likes to see his birds come home from the long races and thinks it not right that they clock them selves in while the fancier is down at the Tesco Superstore doing their shopping. He told me that he rated Mick Tuck of Whitley the best local fancier and says he races a brilliant pigeon on the long distance and is a great worker at the Godalming club.


Darran & Des McFadden of Godalming.


Darran McFadden and his late father, Des, have a racing record over many years that is second to none, winning many firsts at club, Federation, Combine and Classic level. In recent seasons Darran has sadly lost his father and pigeon partner, and has concentrated mainly on National and International racing with brilliant success. The Cranleigh loft has put up some great performances in recent seasons including 1st Federation many times and 1st open SMT Combine (three times). Darren put up one of the best loft performances in the UK in 2008, winning twice 1st open SMT Combine and 1st open L&SECC Tarbes (550 miles).


Two very happy fanciers after the 2008 London & South East Classic Club Tarbes classic were Darran McFadden and his late father, Des, of Godalming who won 1st open with their champion blue chequer pied hen, ‘Razor’s Girl’. The 2008 season had been a dream come true for the Surrey partnership, previously winning twice 1st open SMT Combine from Fougeres and Messac and then the L&SECC Blue Riband event from Tarbes. Darran told me the 2008 campaign started off a bit shaky, with Sparrowhawks attacking his pigeons every day around the loft and his wife, Jo, having to have spinal surgery, and restricting his time spent with the birds down to a bare minimum. He says it was a very worrying time with Jo’s problems and he had to train his Tarbes pigeons off the south coast at 04.00hrs to fit it in. I was very happy to report at that time that Jo had recovered very nicely and Darran had had the old bird racing season of a life time!


Darran’s Tarbes classic winner, ‘Razor’s Girl, was nice two year old pied hen, bred by the Albury long distance ace, Ray Hammond, and is a direct daughter of Ray’s 2005 L&SECC Pau winner, ‘Simply the Best’. His daughter, ‘Razor’s Girl’, is a nice apple bodied hen and when I handled her three days after her Tarbes win she was a quarter up on her first flight, being sent feeding her first every youngster, which was two days old. Her breeding is 100 per cent long distance, with her dam flying Pau as a yearling and her grand sire won Bergerac twice in the Dorking club. The Tarbes winner was paired up in April and after sitting eggs for five days, flew out with the widowhood hens every day. She was given the first two BICC races of the season from Falaise (135 miles) and then was left alone for four weeks, when she was repaired and sent to the Tarbes classic feeding a two day old youngster on the Tuesday marking day. In 2007, as a yearling she had Falaise and Messac and then was stopped in readiness for the 2008 Tarbes Classic. When Ray Hammond presented her to Darran as a squeaker he joked that because she was out of ‘Simply the Best’, she would win the long distance classic as a two year old and she has! At that time, Darran and Des asked me to publicly thank Ray for their wonderful gift pigeon, which they have named after his nick name, ‘Razor’ Hammond. What a great story!


Darran decided to put all his efforts in to channel racing the 2008 season and not worry about inland events, which he now uses to get his birds race fit for National, Classic and Combine racing. He rested the birds more in that season and changed his feeding methods also that year, with channel racing in mind. Apart from one pre-season Capel toss the racers have had no training, only inland racing with the Federation. With minimal training, Darran told me at the time that he had fed heavier that season, with ‘Cranleigh Number 1.’ being the base feed, with Maize and Peanuts added when necessary. The partner’s first SMT Combine winner of the 2008 season was a yearling mealy pied widowhood cock named ‘Kelly’s Eye’ and he was bred by Karl Kelly of Glasgow in Scotland. He won 1st Combine from Fougeres (2736 birds) and was one of a batch of Mardon / Staf Van Reets sent down by Karl for the McFadden’s to try out. Darran said another of the Kelly youngsters won the Federation as a young bird and recorded 6th open L&SECC Tours (2472 birds) the 2006 racing season. Brilliant Staf Van Reets! The McFadden’s second SMT Combine winner of the 2008 season was the yearling widowhood blue cock, ‘Gladiator’, and he won from Messac with 2145 birds completing. Darran calls him ‘Gladiator’ because he is a monster sized pigeon and is always fighting, and his grand dam is a full sister to ‘Sparrow’, the partners 1st SMT Combine winner of 2006. His sire was Darran’s best yearling widowhood cock in 2006, winning multiple prizes including several firsts inland racing and they are closely related to the two magnificent birds that won BIS and BOS at the CHASE Charity Show in January 2008. Darran’s 2008 change of management tactics saw the loft win many other premier positions including, 58th open BICC Falaise (4417 birds), 6th, 11th, 74th, 119th  open L&SECC Alencon (2472 birds), 6th, 66th, 97th, 111th, 112th open L&SECC Tours (1921 birds) and several good firsts in the very strong Godalming club.


Darran McFadden and his father, Des, were the Godalming club’s premier prize winners in 2007, winning a wonderful list of position in the Surrey Federation and SMT Combine. In my opinion, Darran and Des’ best performance of the 2007 season was winning the L&SECC Diploma of Merit with their good white hen, ‘Cameron’s Snow Queen’, when she was clocked on the day to complete her trio of positions in the first 50 open, 19th, 39th and 29th open. This wonderful pigeon was bred from the ‘Stan the Man’ Kirkpatrick bloodlines obtained from the Louella Stud and she had a list of other outstanding positions including, 1st club Lulworth, 1st club Exeter, 2nd club Nantes, 2nd club West Bay, 3rd club Messac, 168th open BICC La Ferte Bernard, 204th open BICC Falaise and 278th open BICC Falaise. A great hen! Darran lifted the only L&SECC ‘Merit Award’ won in the 2011 season, with his good blue cock, ‘Millie’s Blue Boy’, who recorded: 2009: 49th open L&SECC Tarbes, 25th open L&SECC Tarbes, 2011: 13th open L&SECC Tarbes. The McFadden loft were also the winners of 1st sect. A, 4th open NFC Tarbes in 2012! Darran and Des won their third L&SECC ‘Merit Award’ in 2012, with ‘Megan’s Boy’ who recorded: 2010: 31st open L&SECC Tarbes, 2011: 4th open L&SECC Tarbes and 2012: 12th open L&SECC Tarbes. The game cock was clocked on the day of liberation in 2012 and is Eric Cannon bloodlines through the late Malcolm Parker. The sire of ‘Megan’s Boy’ is Darren’s champion stock, ‘Megan’s Lad’, who is the sire of his very successful 550 mile team of pigeons and has bred many premier performers in National and Classic racing. He bred two sons that were clocked on the day of liberation in the L&SECC Tarbes race in 2012, to win 12th and 19th open, and another son was clocked on the day from the BICC Agen International race too record 6th section, 17th open. The list of outstanding performers bred from this brilliant breeder go on and on, but two more pigeons of note, were a son and daughter clock from the BICC Pau International in the 2012 season, winning 19th, 21st section, 56th, 65th open. Sadly ‘Megan’s Lad’ died of old age in December 2012.


Darran McFadden flew in partnership with his father, Des, and their loft is at their home in Cranleigh. Back around 1983, Des, flew pigeons for a couple of seasons, but due to working shifts in the Police Force he found that he could not give the birds the time that they deserved. Darran was only eleven years of age so could not race on his own, but even when Des packed up the pigeons he would still go over to Godalming pigeon club with his uncle, Pat McFadden, who was the secretary at the time. Darran told me, there were loads of great fanciers in that club at that time, not that he knew just how good they were, as he was just a young lad. Great fanciers like Eric Cannon, Arthur and Paul Bridgewater, Stan Edgington, Alec Martin, Ron Cox and even then though listening to all the pigeon banter on a Saturday night, he reckons he had the pigeon racing bug. In 1999 his mum and dad bought the pet shop (Pets Pantry) in Cranleigh, from where many fanciers in the area bought there corn. The late great Eric Cannon of Wormley was one of these fanciers and any time he visited the shop, when Darran was there, he would ask if he had convinced the ‘old fella’ to start pigeons again. His reply always being, ‘not yet, but soon I hope’. Darran had always had the intention of starting up in pigeons again but he was not quite sure when that was going to be. In the 2000 he moved into the house next door to mum and dads as it was closer to his wife’s work, with him still having to drive over to Camberley every day to HSBC bank, where he worked as a computer systems administrator. One day in 2001 he came home from work to be greeted by his dad asking what he thought about racing again, why not he thought, they had a nice big garden out the back. There have always been pigeons on the ‘Pets Pantry’ site, as the late, Ron and Chris Cox flew them there when they owned the shop, when it was a butchers. The previous owner, Ron Dodd, also raced successfully there.


A week or so went by and Des told Darran that a customer of his had offered them some stock birds and would he like to go and get them. Little did he know the friendship he was about to make would not only give them some good birds, but with his help the McFadden’s would get their first taste of winning races. The man in question was Wally Cable of North Chapel. Wally started them off with five pairs of Van Den Bosche stock to breed from and plenty of young birds to supplement the McFadden’s first team. One of the best birds he gave them was a Meuleman cock which not only won races but bred winners too. Darran retired him to stock at three years old, as he was breeding more good pigeons than he can win races. In 2003 Wally bred Darran a half-sister to this Meuleman to win two firsts, one of them 1st club, 2nd Federation, 7th SMT Combine Fougeres. Another very special cock, Wally, bred the McFadden’s was a Staf Van Reet cock from Dean Pallets lines which had not only won on the road, but also bred winners. Every year Wally and Darran swap birds off their best, and he also gave the McFadden’s lots of advice on feeding and management when they started. Darran also got some good Eric Cannon birds from Les Swann of Reigate, one of which turned out to be ‘Megan's Lad’, the cock he clocked from the 2005 N.F.C. Tarbes National, one of his most memorable moment to date. Darran told me, ‘the feeling I got when that cock bird swung round the loft at 20.45pm after flying 15 plus hours was amazing’. The other major additions were from a fancier packing up called Keith Edwards who had some Van Berkels pigeons that he had paid some serious money for from places like Ponderosa Stud. With additions from friends like the three times London and South East Classic Club winner Ray Hammond, Paul Bridgewater the 1961 Nantes National Flying Club winner and select birds from places like Louella Pigeon world. The McFadden’s are not trying to hang on to strain names or keeping so called pure lines, but trying to create a loft full of birds that can fly 50 through to 600 miles. Darran likes to race birds well before being put to stock but once he find one that does breed good ones it comes off the road straight away. He told me, he has heard it said many times from some of the top fanciers in interviews and he really is in agreement with the statement that Racing is Silver, but Breeding is Gold. Another good friend Darran has made since joining the sport is Michael Tuck from Witley. He is in his mind, one of the finest small team channel flyers he knows and has some superb results over the water with what can only be described as simple pigeon racing. Mick flies Natural only with a team of about 14 pairs, and his main goal each season is the National Flying Club Pau. Mick and Darran regularly train together off Hayling Island on Sunday mornings for the channel racers. Since Darran started, Mick Tuck has given him plenty of sound advice on training and feeding for the long events, and if things are not going quite right Mick is a great sounding board on the phone.


The 2002 season was their first old bird season and for the main channel team they raced natural, but did try a team of widowhood cocks for some of the shorter races. Darran didn't really like this system as he felt it was wasting some good hens, even though it did bring them some good positions in the club racing this way. So from then on the McFadden’s raced natural only even for the inland programme. Once they got across the water they more than held their own, but inland even though they did pick up a few cards, they felt that they lacked those few extra yards. In 2005 Darran decided that he wanted to try a team of widowers not just for the inland programme but also for the BICC National races to see how they compared against his channel pigeons. He set up a small loft around the side of his stock loft, away from the main team to experiment with and so they would be undisturbed. He felt that this time however, it would be a total widowhood method with the emphasis being on the hens.


They were paired up in mid-February being left to rear a single baby. The cocks were exercised twice a day at 06.30hrs and 17.00hrs for one hour and the hens were out for two hours between 15.00hrs and 17.00hrs. They were all trained two weeks before the first race and then just exercised around home. The hens he found would fly off for a half hour then come by and go off in another direction for another half hour and to be honest flew like cocks displaying all over the place. Some days they were up for two hours and when he would go and call them in carried on flying for another 30 minutes making his cocks late to come out. The hens were raced every week only getting a rest just before Bergerac when he repaired, but definitely went at least eleven weeks straight and he told me, they thrived on it. Most of the cocks on the other hand were kept for inland with the odd one going over the water in the BICC so they had plenty of rest. They were all fed a widowhood mixture from Gems with the hens getting plenty of peanuts supplemented in with the feed as the distance increased. A product that the McFadden’s use regularly through the week to keep them in peak condition is Gemthepax and Darran would not be without this product. It really does give the birds wonderful condition. The naturals were paired in the middle of March and left on open hole as usual and trained 3 or 4 times a week from the coast, being hopper fed Cranleigh No1 a mix of beans, peas and maize. These birds were only sent over the channel really, as they were mainly for the long races like Pau and so had plenty of rest in between races.


Up until 2006 he has always paired his stock birds up on 6th December, so he bred in the winter which when young bird racing comes around they are always in good feather, similar to darkness babies. However due to his interest being more in the long races and the McFadden records are showing that their best birds were bred later in the year, he did not pair up the stock birds until 20th January. The young birds are all weaned at 28 days on to nothing but maple peas for two weeks. Then once the two weeks is up he introduce a young bird no maize mix from Gems with peanuts as a treat to tame them down. Again he uses the Gemthepax about four times a week to give them lovely feathering and helps their growth. They are exercised at first in the evening until he is sure he has them hooked on peanuts and totally under control, and then they are left on open hole with the naturals for the rest of the summer so they see the countryside. Due to the fact they do anything for peanuts, Darran can go and get them in at any time of the day so they won't interfere with the widowers. He trains the young birds three weeks before racing starts at 15 miles, moving out to about 40 miles where they stay at. Once racing starts he trains them four times a week at about 25 miles. The young birds generally race the programme.


Darran’s biggest ambition is to win the NFC Tarbes National and he admires those that have won it or that are up there at the top of the result year in year out. The likes of John Puddephatt, Jimmy Shepperd, John and Rose Wills, Gary Inkley, Mark Gilbert and J. Nicholson and sons. There you have it, the fantastic performances of Darran & Des McFadden of Cranleigh.


That’s our article for this week! I can be contacted with any pigeon ‘banter’ on telephone number: 01372 463480 or email me on This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.